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Jolene Campbell advises charities to forget about the latest digital trends and focus on telling great stories to win media coverage

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19th April 2017 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

If you work in charity communications you are a hero in my book. A master of juggling and getting results probably on a shoestring budget – I salute you.

Time and again I see smaller charities with dedicated communications teams (often one or two people) under pressure to keep up with digital trends on top of dozens of other communications tasks.

It’s easy to see why press falls off the to do list. But for any charity or social enterprise that depends on building trust and support, proactive media work is not a luxury add-on.

Jolene Campbell

Jolene Campbell

You have to earn it but getting into the media is still well worth the effort.

I have worked on powerful media campaigns that have helped save small charities from closure, ensured record numbers signed up to fundraising events and helped bring changes in legislation.

By making the most of press opportunities smaller charities can make their mark while also making a tangible difference to fundraising and wider objectives.

There has to be a shift in thinking recently. Let me be clear, I advocate social media, I am a fan (ok, an addict). Social brings unprecedented opportunities to the sector – but it’s not a panacea. You can still benefit from having your story told by professional journalists.

Start with strong message

Setting aside time regularly to build a positive media profile can work wonders, more so if you put it together with social and face-to-face activity.

Good stories well told about the impact of your services go a long way to keeping supporters and beneficiaries connected to your cause.

More than that – effective media relations is integral to fundraising and sustainability. That means press is just as important as marketing or a digital plan. 

Research backs up what we know on a personal level; people support the charities they know about.

Take big brands like the British Red Cross, Cancer Research UK and Parkinson’s UK. They all dedicate resources to their media profile and achieve results time and again on regular campaigns like Race for Life or the Parkinson’s awareness week.

Their exceptional media work is inspiring. What they do best is hone the message: keeping it focused, clear and impactful.

Work that starts off as preparation for press coverage, however, can also give you content for social, case studies for your website, funding applications or your newsletter. You have created resources.

Size doesn’t matter

You don’t need a big team or budget to make a splash in the press. You do need a compelling story and the right journalist.

What’s more, you are already off to a head start, because your oragnisation has a wealth of authentic human stories at its heart. 

Put time every week into developing these stories. Give it every cough, spit and emotion to help get across why your work is vital. Always ask, why should people care?

People need to get it. What difference does your work make to this audience and what are you asking them to do?

The important thing is to show the impact of your work. First identify an authentic story – then look at how and where to get it out on in press and other platforms.

Is it working?

Tapping into different platforms at different times becomes easier with clear messages and strong stories because you can better focus your efforts.

So before firing off that social post look at the message and the wider story; could it be in the press and then social, or is it an online campaign with a press element?

Getting that right first will pay off. Likes and shares are a win but you need to track what’s translating to repeat donations, new donors and volunteers or sign ups to fundraising events.

So, overall, forget about following trends; all you have to do is tell a good story. I guarantee, you will reap the benefits. 

Jolene Campbell is a charity communications professional and freeland journalist. Tweet [email protected]

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